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Semtech bares ADC, DAC for digital microwave systems

17 Sep 2014

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Semtech Corporation unveiled the 64GS/s ADC and DAC cores, which utilise IBM's 32nm SOI technology for integration in digital microwave System-on-Chip (SoC) solutions.

Microwave radio systems are currently being revolutionised by advanced data converters with sampling rates at millimetre-wave frequencies and analogue bandwidths extending through Ku-band. These analogue-digital converters (ADCs) and digital-analogue converters (DACs), integrated into versatile chipsets with digitally programmable poly-phase filtering and interpolation techniques, allow extremely wide bandwidths to be digitally processed.

Specific spectral regions extending as high as 34GHz may be selectively processed for dramatic increase in system SNR and SFDR performance. Digital tuning with fine frequency resolution and channelisation may then be performed in an extremely efficient manner, thus fully leveraging the performance and integration advantages of deep-sub-micron CMOS SOI technologies.

Semtech's high performance ADCs and DACs allow the analogue/digital boundary in advanced microwave systems to be moved to the RF frequency, thereby enhancing flexibility, reducing analogue distortion, and enabling more stable and higher-performance systems to be realised. This 'digital microwave' architecture revolution fully leverages commercially available CMOS IC technology, disrupts more traditional analogue-based microwave architectures, and is predicted to become the new implementation standard for most microwave radio applications over the coming years.

Semtech Corporation has been chosen by Northrop Grumman Corporation (NGC) as a subcontractor on its Arrays on Commercial Timescales programme (ACT), which is intended to develop the key technologies for affordable, next-generation active electronically scanned arrays (AESAs) by designing a reusable digital common module that contains the critical integrated circuits required for next-generation AESAs.

As part of the programme, NGC was selected by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to develop and demonstrate advanced wideband digital antenna technology for the next generation RF sensors using active electronically scanned arrays. NGC will integrate Semtech's ultra-high speed ADC and DAC technology into the project.

"Our wideband digital common module design is a breakthrough in AESA capability, enabled by the application of commercial system-on-chip technology with integrated high speed data converters that enable direct RF sampling," said Dr. William Phillips, Director of Advanced Technology at Northrop Grumman's Electronic Systems sector.

Semtech's highly-efficient converters, developed in IBM's 32nm silicon on insulator (SOI) process technology, will be available as cores in November 2014 and operate from 42GS/s to 68GS/s. Semtech is also designing significantly lower power and higher performance converters in 14nm FinFET technology, with availability of these cores expected in early 2016.

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